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Coffee Break Course

A two-minute selection from a News University online course.

NEWS

4 essential questions to ask about scientific studies

When it comes to scientific studies and research, you can start by asking the same basic questions, including: Who funded the research? Are there connections to big industry or advocacy groups? What biases might be at play, based on the study's or researcher's funding history? Who conducted the study? Are the study authors academics or consultants? Or both? Sniff out … Read More
NEWS

How to identify a "push poll"

It happens  every election cycle. You’ll get a call that sounds like a political poll but is really a campaign tactic. Some calls are “push polls,” political telemarketing that attempts to create negative views of candidates or issues. Others are legitimate message-testing surveys, used by campaigns to see which types of messages will be most successful. Here’s how you can … Read More
NEWS

Are you asking "green-light" questions in your interviews?

In an interview, questions can be keys that open a door to a person’s life or beliefs. Or, they can act as padlocks, barring you from discovering the information and stories you need to do your job. Good questions make the difference between an answer and a quotable answer. Reporters just starting out often blame taciturn sources -- stonewalling police, … Read More
NEWS

3 ways to start reporting on your investigative project

Working on investigative reports? If you are looking at a system — a government program, juvenile courts, corporate regulation — your preparation should include: Reading a report that will provide an overview and explain how the system is supposed to work. Talking to someone who understands the system — a "road-map source." He or she can explain how the system … Read More
NEWS

How leaders can stay focused on listening, even in a busy office

Leaders can help themselves and their team by practicing the art of listening. When you listen, you help staff members develop their ideas and skills, and help them do their best work. Every leader can hone their listening skills and become a better leader. The first step to wanting to listen. You have to believe that your team member has … Read More
NEWS

8 steps to revising your writing

To revise your writing, you need to see it through the eyes of a reader — a stranger to the text instead of the creator. Here's one recipe for revising your work. Print out your draft. The first step in achieving distance is to change the medium. You may see words on a page differently than those on a computer … Read More
NEWS

How to develop story ideas in science and environmental reporting

As you cover environmental and climate change issues remember: Nothing in science is ever fully definitive. There is still much to be discovered and understood. And keep in mind that covering policy is a little different from covering science. Here are some ways to explore your coverage: Look for divisiveness: Policy experts will disagree on major policy questions, which makes … Read More
NEWS

3 tips for rounding off numbers

It's so tempting to round off numbers and present your audience with clear, whole numbers rather than cluttering up the text with decimal points and a string of digits. Sometimes rounding a number up (or down) is just fine. But sometimes it creates an inaccurate picture. How can an ethical journalist tell the difference? Here are some guidelines: Percents often … Read More
NEWS

4 ways to use photos in your multimedia stories

As you plan your multimedia story, you have to decide which tools (video, audio, photos, graphics, etc.) would best tell each part of the story. The web is a visual medium, so be sure to include photos. Use photos to replace 1,000 words, not as accessories to words. Text and photos should complement each other visually, as well as in … Read More
NEWS

Use your X-ray vision to learn from other writers

One way writers learn from stories is to use their X-ray vision. (After all, Superman was also a newspaper reporter.) X-ray reading helps you see through the text of the story to view the machinery of grammar, language, syntax and rhetoric, the gears of making meaning, the hardware of the trade. Here are some X-ray reading tricks offered by writers: … Read More
NEWS

How to end your story in a way that lingers in your viewer's heart

Don’t spend all of your energy on the first half of your story only to allow the piece to run out of gas. What you show and say at the end are often what lingers in the viewer’s heart. Good endings resolve the main theme of the story. Negative Action Shot. Photojournalist friend Don Cadorette likes to have the subject … Read More
NEWS

A checklist of red flags for fact-checkers during breaking news

During breaking news situations, unverified information, rumors, fake photos and outright lies are unfortunately part of the process in social media. As a fact-checker, you don’t want to spread false information or spend time chasing a rumor. But how can you tell? Here’s a “red flag” checklist to consult during a breaking news event: “Answers” given too soon Anonymous sources … Read More
NEWS

How to interview for your audio narratives

The best interviews for audio narratives provide the facts around an issue and offer distinct moments that add color, interest and variety to a story. The basics of good interviewing apply to an audio story. But there are additional factors for audio narratives, especially if you’re planning to tell the story solely through interview clips, without the benefit of a … Read More
NEWS

How to include solutions in your interviews on social issues

Solutions journalism offers rigorous and compelling coverage about responses to social problems. As part of your reporting, consider these approaches to interviewing a wide range of stakeholders, including the people enacting the solution, those directly affected, detractors, funders, academics and more. Replace “Whodunnit?” with “Howdunnit?” In solutions journalism, what matters most is the wisdom found in the actions of your … Read More
NEWS

Your quest for a lead starts with these questions about your story

To write an effective lead, you have to know--first and foremost--what the story is about. Start with the five W's and an H: What happened? Who did it happen to? Where did it happen? When did it happen? Why did it happen? How did it happen? With that knowledge you can logically zero in on the two basic focusing questions: … Read More
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